Published in The Jakarta Post (19/4/2014)
If I had to select a single candidate out of 6,607 House of Representatives candidates and 945 Regional Representatives Council (DPD) candidates who had a 99.9 percent probability of being reelected, I would certainly choose Queen Hemas, a DPD candidate from Yogyakarta.
The queen of Yogyakarta has, undoubtedly, dominated DPD elections since their inception in 2004. She then secured more than 800,000 votes, more than all three legislators’ votes combined. In 2009, she won by a landslide with more than 80 percent of the valid 940,000 votes. In 2014, she has set a target of winning the support of no less than 1 million out of the 1.7 million in the voters’ list.
What explains this phenomenon? Does aristocratic status matter to voters? How well did aristocratic candidates do in the 2014 election? The recent election in Yogyakarta may shed some light on the aristocratic performance in politics.
In many parts of Indonesia, the aristocracy has a special place in people’s hearts. Many local aristocrats have successfully transformed people’s cultural support into political support since the fall of Soeharto. In Gianyar regency, Bali, for instance, the election has always pitted two royal houses, Puri Gianyar and Puri Ubud. In Ternate, North Maluku, both the sultan and his queen, Nita Susanti, received significant votes for the House and DPD seats.
This tendency has always been strongest in Yogyakarta, which received special status in 2012. Unlike any other provinces, the Yogyakarta governor and vice governor are privileged positions for two royal houses, the sultanate of Yogyakarta and the Pakualaman principality.
In the 2014 election, high-ranking aristocrats competed for national and local legislative seats representing different parties in Yogyakarta. The sultanate of Yogyakarta planned to have representatives in three different legislative levels. Queen Hemas is running for the DPD for the third time, her son-in-law Prince Wironegoro is running for the House representing the Gerindra Party and another son-in-law, Prince Purbaningrat, of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is running for the Yogyakarta Legislative Council (DPRD).
Pakualaman runners are Roy Suryo Notodiprojo, the Democratic Party’s candidate for the House and his wife Ismarindayani Priyanti for the DPD. In addition, middle- and low-level aristocrats are competing for seats in the provincial and five district legislatures in Yogyakarta.
However, the results show that depending solely on aristocratic status might not bear fruit. Prince Wironegoro lost in the polling station where he cast his vote against another Gerindra candidate, Andika Pandu Puragabaya, the son of former Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. (ret) Djoko Santoso. Andika is likely to be one out of eight House representatives from Yogyakarta.
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